Dubai Fountain

Getting Around Dubai

By Car

The roads can be horrendously busy in Dubai at times and first-time visitors will be surprised at the number and size of them. You'll also marvel at the thousands of flowers in the flower beds at major road intersections and at times you'll witness some dangerously crazy driving.

If there is a main tourist road in Dubai, it has to be Sheikh Zayed Road which in places has six or more lanes in each direction. On a good day using Sheikh Zayed Road it can take 30 minutes at 65 mph to get from the Creek area of Dubai to Jebel Ali (on the Abu Dhabi side of Dubai) which is the South-Western end of Dubai proper. Any other route will take longer.

Sheikh Zayed Road

Make no mistake, Sheikh Zayed Road is not the only road of this size in Dubai. If you head further back inland towards the Dubailand area and the start of the proper desert area you'll also come across Al Khail Road, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, Emirates Road, Ras Al Khor Street and Al Ain Road, all of which are just as busy and large as Sheikh Zayed Road and these are largely unrestricted meaning you'll find loads of heavy wagons as well as large numbers of taxis and private cars on them. Lose your way out here and you'll end up doing an extra ten miles just trying to get back to where you got lost.

Road and Road Sign in Dubai

Speed limits are generally clearly indicated on road signs. Usually in and around the city a limit of 60-80kph applies, whilst on main roads like Sheikh Zayed Road, the limit increases to 100-120kph. Most cars, and you'll notice this in taxis, have an audible warning that will start if the speed reaches 120kph and it continues until the speed drops below this level.

Road in Dubai

Notwithstanding the speed limits and speed cameras, driving is quite fast, often with few gaps in the traffic and with vehicles driving too close to each other - probably due to the wrongly assumed extra protection provided by large 4x4 vehicles which account for 50% of vehicles in the city.

Your first holiday in Dubai - Drink plenty of bottled water!

Hiring a car for your holiday in Dubai is becoming increasingly common-place as the road network throughout the UAE is regularly expanding. Most rental companies will deliver to, and collect from, your hotel or apartment and you'll be able to hire anything from a basic budget-level car to a top of the range sports car. However, drivers must be over 21 to drive a small economy car and over 25 to drive a car over 2 litres. All vehicles are left-hand drive and most, if not all, are automatic. Petrol is cheap compared to Europe. Unleaded petrol is called 'Special'.

Driving License Requirements on hiring a car:  (1) Drivers are required to produce their original passports as a form of ID, (2) Full national licenses must be produced and be valid, and held, for a minimum period of one year, and (3) Visitors from the countries listed below are allowed to drive in Dubai with their valid national driving license, however it is recommended that drivers also obtain an International Driving License as this may be needed for visiting other Emirates in the UAE. We suggest you check on this before leaving home as regulations can change without much publicity. The countries referred to above are: UK, USA, France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Greece, Austria, Ireland, Spain, Norway, Turkey, Canada, Japan, Poland, Korea, Finland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Romania.

Swot up on the official and unofficial Dubai driving rules, such as being aware that (supposedly) if you have any sort of an accident with a native Emerati you are to blame no matter what the circumstances; if you hit a camel you have to pay for its medical care which can be expensive; and if you have an accident you must leave the car unmoved (even on the busiest road) and call and wait for the police who may not to be able to speak a word of English when they arrive! On this last point we understand that rules changed in 2014/15 so that if the guilty party is agreed when you report the accident, and you must report it immediately, and if no-one is injured, you may be allowed to move the vehicles. This is just hearsay at the moment, so check it out.

Road accidents are the largest cause of deaths in Dubai and in percentage terms are said to be amongst the highest in the world! However driving standards in Dubai are probably better than in some other Emirates.

Road Outside Mercato Mall

Driving and pedestrian safety is an increasingly important issue in Dubai given the large number of traffic accidents. Our feeling is that driving standards have improved over the last ten years as the Government has begun to acknowledge and do something about the problem.

Pedestrians should not jaywalk or cross a road where there are no clear pedestrian markings - many people have died trying to cross major roads on foot.

Learn more about Dubai Religions

Where to Stay and Places to Visit and Things to Do in Dubai

Important Information

Road rage is becoming an increasing problem given the closeness of cars (especially those behind you), the sudden, unsignalled lane changes and poor driving courtesy. You can drive in any lane on a highway and overtake on either side, but we suggest you avoid driving in the extreme left lane of highways to avoid being 'flashed' by the vehicle just two yards behind you. However much you might be irritated and might want to do it, remember that unruly behaviour or rude hand gestures can lead to fines and jail time if reported, so keep your cool whatever the circumstances or your Dubai holiday may turn into a nightmare!

Your Dubai holiday should be the holiday of a lifetime. If you're driving - take care.

We're told, that the main highway from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Road which after the Jebel Ali area changes its name to Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Road, can be a particularly scary place for even the most experienced driver, due mainly to the high, illegal, speeds that are maintained whilst cars are only yards apart. Bad accidents have taken place on this road, in fog, involving over 120 vehicles.

We've been driven to and from Abu Dhabi on a few occasion, all on clear, sunny days and the trips were all relatively stress and problem free although the speed of approach and closeness of cars behind wanting to overtake can be a degree off-putting. Just hold your nerve! Fortunately,the road has a minimum of two lanes in each direction.

If you do hire a car, and women are freely allowed to drive in Dubai (unlike in Saudi Arabia), be aware that in some places you'll find it difficult to park near to where you want to be and at other places such as major hotels you should expect to use valet parking. In addition, the Dubai authorities have

  • (a) introduced speed cameras on some major routes - and they're not bright yellow like UK ones, they're grey and hard to see! Presumably your fines will be added to your car rental fees on returning the car.
  • (b) introduced tolls on at least two major routes, Sheikh Zayed Road and the Al Garhoud bridge. You'll see the word 'Salik' which is the name of the automated road toll system (there's no stopping to pay tolls - it's all electronic from a windscreen sticker) - our guess is that the tolls you incur will be added to your hire car fees on returning the car, and
  • (c) introduced quite a number of severe speed bumps on the Jumeirah Palm, which must make it a real pain to live there!

Parking charges - car parks in malls are free and they're massive so remember where you leave your car. Family use their phones to take a reminder picture of the nearest identifier. Street parking meters are becoming increasingly common, so check when you park up and if you can, park in the shade.

Car Park & Signage

If you're involved in an accident, dial 999 in emergency situations for the police. For non-emergency police attendance ring 04 2660555 in Deira or in Bur Dubai ring 04 3981111. You can find the phone numbers of police stations throughout the UAE by ringing the Dubai Police Information Line on 04 2685555 or try

Look at our page of Emergency Numbers in our Important Information section for other emergency numbers including those for hospitals in Dubai providing accident and emergency facilities.

Out of the city, on the sand dunes, the default vehicle of choice is the larger version of the Toyota Landcruiser. Don't try it in anything less! For safety, driving in the sand dunes is usually done with vehicles keeping together in groups, with specially trained drivers. Sand dune driving requires specialist skills that we don't have or need in the UK. If you want to learn to drive in the desert look under Desert Driving Training on our Places to Visit and Things to Do page.

Think...Drink...Water..........Plenty of Water!

Have a look at our Best Ways to See Dubai page for other options enabling you to see most of the touristy-type places.

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